It’s interesting to see how politicians try to redefine history for various purposes. Today’s flashback consists of photographic proof of the moment Oklahoma City conquered its past demons, rediscovered its downtown, and never looked back.
It was a moment of triumph for Ron Norick, the mayor who truly brought the city back from the abyss. As mayor, Ron Norick turned the city, psychologically devastated by the oil bust of the 1980s and the terrorist bombing of April 1995, into what was recently described by the World Mayor Project as “one of the most vibrant and economically booming cities in the U.S.”
It was Norick who balanced recovery from the bombing with the delicate, complicated and unprecedented effort to remake the urban core, and turn around the city’s self-image, through MAPS. Looking back, it’s amazing to consider what he accomplished.
What’s even more amazing is that at his moment of triumph, the opening the ballpark, the pending opening of the canal, Norick retired from politics, letting his successors build upon what he achieved, and in the process, soak up the glory.
Those who followed in Norick’s footsteps built upon his legacy – but it’s his legacy.
To understand the significance of these crowds, consider the canal boasted just ONE restaurant (Chelino’s) and no other real attractions. This was truly a revival moment, and for anyone to take that away from Norick, well, can that be anything but historical revisionism? And if yes, than to what purpose?
Remember, it was Norick who endured the tragedy, the circus, the unprecedented recovery required after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. What hit Oklahoma City that day was devastating. With my own eyes I saw some individuals grandstand, trying to use the moment to raise their public profiles. Norick did no such thing. He didn’t use the tragedy to enhance his national standing. He led … stoically, quietly, effectively. And OKC needed such an approach. While navigating the turbulent politics behind implementing MAPS, Norick had to set the right tone, mourning our losses, but also leading the city forward in such a way that the bomb-damaged areas weren’t just repaired, they were made better than they were before.
Norick was so detached from grandstanding and claiming credit that more than a dozen years after he left office, the community’s memory may fade and credit for Norick’s work may end up being diluted and given to those not worthy. There is no George Bush standing with firefighters in the rubble of 9/11 type photo of Norick. The best I could find is the following: